Mark Sanchez seems firmly entrenched as the backup quarterback in Philadelphia. He has shown accuracy and zip in his passes throughout training camp. This has translated to the preseason as well. Through three games Sanchez has gone 25-of-31 for 281 yards and two touchdowns with just one interception.
Ever since the second preseason game there has been speculation that Sanchez could be traded. Chip Kelly acknowledged the Eagles would listen to offers for him according to CSNPhilly's John Gonzalez. In the wake of reports from NFL.com's Ian Rapoport that Sam Bradford will miss the 2014 season with a torn ACL, Rapoport has reported the St. Louis Rams have interest in Sanchez's services.
It's easy to look at Sanchez's preseason success and conclude he would be the perfect solution to the Rams' woes at quarterback. But the preseason and the regular season are entirely different atmospheres with difference paces. If we look at Sanchez's 81 percent preseason completion rate in the 2014 preseason we also have to consider his career 55.1 completion percentage and 71.7 passer rating with the New York Jets.
With all that in mind, what exactly could a team like the Rams (or another QB-needy team) expect from Sanchez?
Sanchez is not known for his accuracy, nor does he possess elite arm strength. But Sanchez also is not known for poor accuracy, nor is he known for a weak arm. He is capable of making most of the necessary throws at the NFL level.
As shown by the video, Sanchez is capable of making throws on time and with velocity. The ball is thrown accurately and Santonio Holmes is able to run free for a 52-yard gain.
Most importantly, perhaps, is Sanchez is not rattled by the pressure the Lions were sending at him. He keeps his eyes downfield, rather than focusing on the pass rush, and completes the pass.
Another aspect Sanchez brings to the table is his underrated mobility. While not known as a scrambler, Sanchez is more than capable of picking up extra yards with his legs. Chip Kelly even once stated he "always had respect for [Sanchez's] game and athletic ability" according to Kimberly Martin of Newsday.
The video below shows his agility and vision as he scrambles for a 5-yard touchdown on a designed quarterback draw.
Sanchez, however, has one glaring weakness: he frequently shows poor judgment. Throughout his career, Sanchez has consistently turned the ball over by making poor decisions, such as this interception he threw against the Raiders as he tried to squeeze the ball into coverage.
With the Jets, he recorded 69 interceptions against 68 touchdowns over four seasons. Three out of four seasons he had 18 or more interceptions. Even Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com noted Sanchez has occasionally made poor decisions in Eagles OTAs and training camp.
So what do we make of Sanchez? He has no shortage of talent to be an effective player, but poor decision making and lack of elite accuracy have marred his career with inconsistency.
In Sanchez's case, a solution can be found in the Alex Smith approach. Don't ask Sanchez to do too much, but ask him to just manage the game.
It seems the issues with Sanchez occur when he attempts to force a pass to his receiver or when he becomes overconfident in his athletic abilities to elude defenders. When he tries to do much he turns the ball over. But if his priority is to protect the football and nothing else, Sanchez could be a plausible option as a starter.
He can make throws with impressive velocity when the receiver is open. If needed he can scramble for additional yardage when he has open space. While he does not have a cannon, he can make deep passes when they are necessary. If he is taught to play like a game manager, he could potentially be another Alex Smith.
And what Sanchez would have over any other possible option at quarterback for the Rams, even Michael Vick, is he has an impressive postseason track record. For all the criticisms aimed at Sanchez, there is no denying his strong play in the playoffs. He has a 4-2 postseason record, and through six games he completed 61 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns, three interceptions and a 94.3 passer rating.
Furthermore, Sanchez has four seasons of starting experience. Make his priority to protect the ball and not to give away games and he could thrive. There is already evidence of that being true due to his success in Kelly's system, as observers such as BleedingGreenNation's Brandon Lee Gowton stated Kelly's offense places great emphasis upon avoiding turnovers.
These are possible reasons the Eagles brought Sanchez on board. If Nick Foles were to miss time, the Eagles would have a talented signal-caller with experience who would manage the game and not be limited by a deficiency of talent.
But Sanchez has likely exceeded expectations this summer, and while he would likely be a serviceable backup, he may have shown enough to be a valuable trade asset. There are several teams in the NFL right now in need of a starting quarterback. The Rams, Vikings and Bills are all teams that could use a player like Sanchez. If they also see the value in his skills the Eagles have, they could potentially offer a mid-round pick for his services.
It would then be up to the Eagles to decide what is more important: an experienced backup quarterback this season or a draft pick to help build for the future?
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